Friday, November 09, 2012

Recent Forays into Ecclesiastical Heraldry

Many thanks to our readers for the kind words on the Cram and Ferguson monastery project I shared some weeks back. I have also been busy this summer and fall in my own personal studio on a number of non-architectural designs, including a peculiarly high number of heraldic commissions, which has allowed me to further explore a much-neglected part of the Church's artistic patrimony in which I have a particular interest.

The first was a design commissioned by a private gentleman for his own personal use; one version of it was intended for an ink stamp. While not of an explicitly ecclesiastical character, it incorporates a version of the Jerusalem cross (albeit without the crosslets) and the duo gladii of medieval political philosophy.


The second was a design for a new coat of arms for the College Seminary - St. Andrew's Hall at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Like Seton Hall's Immaculate Conception Seminary, it is essentially a differenced version of the arms of the archdiocese of Newark. The crown above is adapted also from the crest associated with Immaculate Conception's arms. I have omitted the torse or crest-wreath on the grounds ecclesiastical bodies do not typically use crests--though crowns by themselves are sometimes seen above the arms of religious orders or other similar institutes. I was very proud to see that they have used it already on programs, letterheads and other official publications.
The third, also from the archdiocese of Newark, was for a parish celebrating its sesquicentenntial, and incorporates references to the diocese, its patroness, St. Teresa of Avila, and the name of the town in which it is located, Summit, the last through the division per chevron, suggesting the peak of a mountain.
The last and most recent is a bit farther afield from the usual subject matter of this website, but is worth considering as an example of clarity and simplicity in armory. It was an original design for the coat of arms of a Protestant clergyman who belonged to a denomination without a fixed system of heraldic external ornaments. He thus requested a helm and crest above his shield rather than some new and unheard-of species of pontifical hat. The arms themselves, with a silver phoenix rising against a black field towards a seven-pointed star, strikes me as one of the more successful efforts I have undertaken in this field, and a good antidote against the inevitable instinct towards clutteredness that seems to crop up whenever new arms are designed for a parish, diocese or bishop.

I have also been busy with a number of full-color presentation renderings of existing ecclesiastical arms, which I hope to share with you once they have been delivered to their intended recipients. In the mean time, if I may be permitted to descend into crass commercialism, I might also like to point out that I have also recently completed this year's Christmas card for my studio, which can be purchased here.